How Duke basketball will look without No. 1 advantage

Duke basketball (Photo by Peyton Williams/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Peyton Williams/Getty Images) /

How will Duke basketball fare at home this year without fans in the stands?

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been the craziest and most unusual year of our lives. People across the globe have had to adjust to new ways of living, working, and spending their time. With all the changes and losses that we have experienced this year, none may be weirder than seeing a Duke basketball team without its No. 1 advantage.

I am talking about the Cameron Crazies, Duke’s rabid student section.

While all sports have had to adjust to playing without fans, it will be especially odd for the Blue Devils. Cameron Indoor Stadium provides one of the greatest advantages, if not the greatest, for a home team across all sports. The spirited and highly enthusiastic fans are literally right on top of you. If you run down a loose ball, you may end up in the midst of a Duke fan frenzy.

If you have never been to Cameron for a Duke basketball game, it should be something that is on your bucket list. It is truly an unrivaled experience. Even if you hate Duke or hate basketball, it will leave you in awe. There is no bad seat in the house, mainly because it holds just over 9,000 seats. Even if you are in the very top row, you still have a great view of the action.

The primary reason that Duke has one of the greatest home-court advantages in basketball is because of the sheer volume inside the building.

If you closed your eyes and had no idea where you were, you would think you were in a town’s hottest night club. It is so deafening that you cannot even talk to the person right next to you. Imagine being a coach or point guard trying to instruct the rest of the team. Cameron Indoor severely hinders the opponent’s ability to effectively communicate and think clearly on the court.

Of course, Crazies also have a positive impact on Duke basketball players

While the fans are not the ones making the shots or calling the plays, their impact on the game is unquestionable and often insurmountable. Every year, the Blue Devils win games at home where they get outplayed by the other team, but the fans’ energy and spirit will them to victory.

When a Duke basketball team makes a big play or goes on a run, it feels like the roof is about to explode. You can almost feel the building shake. That provides a huge jolt of energy for the players.

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Sometimes as a player, you are just not at your best. For whatever reason, the shots are not falling while your go-to moves just are not working like they usually do. During those times, you need something to give you a boost. As a player, you understand that you need just one positive play in order to send the crowd into a frenzy.

That one moment can shift the entire momentum of the game.

There is no greater boost than knocking down a free throw and having 9,000 people yell out “Swoosh” in unison or when an opponent makes an error, hearing “You let the whole team down.” The Cameron Crazies are always waiting for something amazing to happen. They do everything in their power to make the game easier for the players out on the court.

It is hard to quantify the impact that Crazies have on the play of the Blue Devils, but it is not impossible. The fact that Duke basketball went nearly 20 years without losing a home game to a non-conference opponent should be enough.

When the Blue Devils have a home game, it is expected that they win, regardless of the opponent. Many teams come into Cameron with high hopes but leave with the Crazies chanting “Drive home safely” — a sign that defeat is inevitable and that it’s time to go back home.

To say the least, it will be very different watching Duke basketball home games this season. Seeing rows of empty bleachers will look completely abnormal. This, however, is a new reality that we all must get used to.

So this year, it is more important than ever to show support for guys like Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt virtually. We have to do what we can until all this madness is over and our crazed yet extremely faithful fanbase can return home.

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